The month of April is known for many things…April Fool’s Day, the first full month of spring, the start of baseball season, “April showers bring May flowers” and regrettably the onset of severe spring weather.
But, did you know April is also “National Volunteer Month” in the United States and National Volunteer Week, April 11-15, in Canada. No fooling.
For organizations like Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), no month of the year could be more important than April. Volunteers are the life blood of MDS. Without them, there is no MDS. Without them, many survivors of storms will lose hope and struggle to recover.
On Thursday, April 2, in Far Rockaway, New York, homeowners and partner groups from the community sang praises and gave thanks to God for the hundreds of volunteers who came through their community the past three years rebuilding homes after Superstorm Sandy.
Pointing at pictures of volunteers in a recent copy of the MDS newsletter, Behind the Hammer, Howard Beach, NY, homeowner, Anne Marie Durm, said that each morning “I pray for each one of them.”
Durm was found shivering on the third floor attic of her home three years ago after Sandy nearly destroyed her home. Today, her home is solid, secure and warm and she will be the first to say, it’s because of volunteers.
In February, students from Conrad Grebel University College in Ontario decided they would rather serve strangers in Far Rockaway than study or holiday over Reading Week. The MDS Project Director reported they were a “keen bunch of young people who worked hard and had great attitudes!”
Last month, in Pilger, Nebraska, young university students who attended a Mennonite congregation in Wichita decided they would rather spend their spring break fitting a new house with plumbing than racing down to a sunny beach in Florida.
In 2014 there were 3,636 short-term, long-term, youth and retirees assisting disaster survivors in Canada and the US. Together they worked more than 26,361 days and served 463 disaster survivors.
They cleaned up after disasters, made minor and major repairs to some 250 homes and buildings, and built 36 new homes.
It is not at all difficult to tabulate the numbers and even the monetary worth. The value of the 2014 MDS volunteer labor is roughly $4.7 million USD ($5.9 million CDN) when calculating 3,636 volunteers working 26,361 eight-hour days at $22.55 per hour, the national hourly average according to the Independent Sector, a non-profit advocacy group.
When listening to New York State Senator James Sanders speak of MDS volunteers, however, it is not about the money. It was about something else, a different value, and a priceless value.
“Without our volunteers, MDS would be an empty shell,” MDS executive director, Kevin King said. “We need them, the disaster survivors need them. They bring hope, joy and the love of Christ to places and people who are just asking for some hope and peace.”
To read entire article, click here.
MDS and the Gulf Coast Recovery now in paperback
The 2014 book titled “Mennonite Disaster Service and the Gulf Coast Recovery“ by Brenda Phillips, PhD, Associate Dean at Ohio University in Chillicothe, is now available in a paperback edition from Lexington Books. A long-time friend of MDS, Phillips is an award winning and widely published author on disaster recovery and socially vulnerable populations. Phillips is donating all royalties from book sales to MDS.
The book can also be purchased through your local bookstore or favorite online bookseller. Make sure you have a copy available for your church or school library.
“Mennonite Disaster Service brings into clear focus one of the most powerful examples of faith-based volunteer service…” Shirley Laska, University of New Orleans.
“What do faith-based organizations contribute to post-disaster recovery work? And, ultimately, how can communities rebuild to be stronger and better…? This is a fascinating read.” Lori Peek, Colorado State University.
“This important book is a valuable resource not only for students and academics, but…for anyone who wants to understand and appreciate giving and receiving in disaster recovery.” Maureen Fordham, Northumbria University.
MDS featured on NBC Nightly News! MDS was featured on the NBC Nightly News on March 29, 2011. To see the story that features our Diamond, La. project, click on the link below:
MDS on the News